Ahead of Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) on Thursday 19 May, Apple has previewed new accessibility features that will be coming to its platforms later this year.
Of particular note for blind and low vision users is Door Detection on supported iPhones and iPads, which will enable you to navigate the last few feet to your destination. Apple will also be expanding support for VoiceOver with over 20 new languages and locales.
Apple says that Door Detection “can help users locate a door upon arriving at a new destination, understand how far they are from it, and describe door attributes — including if it is open or closed, and when it’s closed, whether it can be opened by pushing, turning a knob, or pulling a handle.”
Door Detection will also be able to read signs and symbols around the door. Apple gives the room number at an office, or the presence of an accessible entrance symbol as examples. Additionally, it should be able to identify and speak such things as a store name, opening hours, fire exit symbols, and the material construction and colour of the door. Users will have the option to disable the announcements of some of these types of information to suit their circumstances and use case.
When your device detects that a door is nearby, Door Detection can let you know using sound, speech, and haptic feedback.
Door Detection combines the power of LiDAR, camera, and on-device machine learning, and will be available in a new Detection Mode within the Magnifier app on iPhone and iPad models with the LiDAR Scanner.
A new feature coming to Apple Maps will be sound and haptic feedback for VoiceOver users to identify the starting point for walking directions.
Apple is adding support for more than 20 additional locales and languages to VoiceOver, including Bengali, Bulgarian, Catalan, Ukrainian, and Vietnamese.
Additionally, there are to be “dozens” of new voices available which Apple says are optimized for assistive features across languages” and will also be available for Speak Selection and Speak Screen accessibility features.
Apple states that “VoiceOver, Speak Selection, and Speak Screen will add support for Arabic (World), Basque, Bengali (India), Bhojpuri (India), Bulgarian, Catalan, Croatian, Farsi, French (Belgium), Galician, Kannada, Malay, Mandarin (Liaoning, Shaanxi, Sichuan), Marathi, Shanghainese (China), Spanish (Chile), Slovenian, Tamil, Telugu, Ukrainian, Valencian, and Vietnamese.”
VoiceOver users on Mac are to get new Text Checker tool to discover common formatting issues such as duplicative spaces or misplaced capital letters, which Apple says will make “proofreading documents or emails even easier.”
Another new accessibility feature will see the introduction of Live Captions on iPhone, iPad, and Mac. This will auto-transcribe any audio on your device, including phone calls, FaceTime, videos, and conversations that you may be having with a nearby person.
Users can adjust the font size of Live Captions for ease of reading.
Live Captions in FaceTime attribute auto-transcribed dialogue to call participants, which Apple says Should make group video calls more convenient.
. When Live Captions are used for calls on Mac, users have the option to type a response and have it spoken aloud in real time to others who are part of the conversation.
Live Captions will be accessible to deaf-blind users who use a braille display with their device.
Additional New Features
- With Apple Watch Mirroring, users can control Apple Watch from their paired iPhone, with the option to use iPhone’s assistive features like Voice Control and Switch Control as alternatives to tapping the display.
- With Buddy Controller, users can ask a care provider or friend to help them play a game; Buddy Controller combines any two game controllers into one, so multiple controllers can drive the input for a single player.
- With Siri Pause Time, users with speech disabilities can adjust how long Siri waits before responding to a request.
- Voice Control Spelling Mode gives users the option to dictate custom spellings using letter-by-letter input.
- Sound Recognition can be customized to recognize sounds that are specific to a person’s environment, like their home’s unique alarm, doorbell, or appliances.
- The Apple Books app will offer new themes, and introduce customization options such as bolding text and adjusting line, character, and word spacing for an even more accessible reading experience.
Apple gives no firm dates for when these new features will be available, but it is expected that they will come with iOS 16, iPadOS 16, macOS 13, watchOS 9, and tvOS 16 this fall.,
To further mark Global Accessibility Awareness Day, Apple is offering special sessions, curated collections, and more:
- SignTime will launch in Canada on May 19 to connect Apple Store and Apple Support customers with on-demand American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters. SignTime is already available for customers in the US using ASL, the UK using British Sign Language (BSL), and France using French Sign Language (LSF).
- Apple Store locations around the world are offering live sessions throughout the week to help customers discover accessibility features on iPhone, and Apple Support social channels are showcasing how-to content.
- The Accessibility Assistant shortcut is coming to the Shortcuts app on Mac and Apple Watch this week to help recommend accessibility features based on user preferences.
- This week in Apple Fitness+, trainer Bakari Williams uses ASL to highlight the features available to users that are part of an ongoing effort to make fitness more accessible to all, including Audio Hints, which are short descriptive verbal cues to support users who are blind or low vision, and Time to Walk and Time to Run episodes becoming “Time to Walk or Push” and “Time to Run or Push” for wheelchair users. Additionally, Fitness+ trainers incorporate ASL into every workout and meditation, all videos include closed captioning in six languages, and trainers demonstrate modifications in each workout so users at different levels can join in.
What do you think of these upcoming new accessibility features? Let us know by posting a comment below.